Shoe business – quality and fit beat price for kids’ footwear

Kids’ feet grow so fast, it can feel like you’re forking out for new shoes every few months. But you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get shoes to suit your child’s growing feet.

In fact, quality is more important than price, says Charlotte Bodell, an Australian Podiatry Association Ambassador. “If you can get a bargain – even better.”

If you can only afford one good quality pair of shoes, Bodell, who is passionate about good foot alignment, recommends choosing whatever your child spends the most time in – trainers if they’re always wearing them, otherwise school shoes.

She also suggests looking for sales, because you might find a good pair for a similar price to a lower-quality pair from a variety store.

Checking for quality

So, how can you tell whether a shoe is good quality? Bodell explains there are several things to look for.

Firstly, the shoe should have a firm heel counter, which is an insert that reinforces the heel section. It helps to cradle the heel and keep the foot in a good position.

If you can flatten the heel right down, it won’t do much for supporting your child’s foot.

A good shoe will also have a shank, which is a supportive structure running underneath the arch of the foot. To test whether a shoe has one, bend the toe of the shoe towards the heel like a banana. “If it bends all the way in, then you know it hasn’t got a shank and the midfoot is not going to be supported,” Bodell says.

She also advises against shoes made from synthetics. “Our feet get so sweaty. We want to try and keep any fungus away as much as possible, so a breathable leather shoe is great.”

Quality laces and good tread under the shoe complete the picture.

Rule of thumb for a good fit

And while quality is important, making sure the shoe fits well is vital. Bodell recommends having your child try the shoe on, then pushing the tip of their thumb into the space between their toes and the end of the shoe.

If they can fit their thumb-width into that space, it’s a good fit.

This allows a little room for swelling, which is normal when you’re on your feet all day. It’s also important for walking down hills (when your feet slide towards the front of the shoe) and helps prevent bruising on the tops of the toes, says Bodell.

Risks of poor quality shoes

Bruising isn’t the only problem that can be caused by ill-fitting or poor-quality footwear. Not only can poor quality shoes wear out more quickly, they can also lead to injuries, Bodell says, especially if your children are very active.

One common problem that can be associated with unsupportive shoes is Sever’s disease – a condition that causes pain around the growth plate in the heel, usually affecting kids between the ages of 8 and 14.

“If their shoe is not supporting them enough, then biomechanically the foot is not in a neutral position,” Bodell says. “It can make this type of condition worse.”

When you buy new shoes, also make sure your child wears them in. “Don’t send them to school on the first day with a brand-new pair of shoes – they will probably get blisters,” Bodell says.

Instead, have them wear their shoes for an hour or two each day in the week before they go back to school.

If you notice that your child walks on their tiptoes; their walk does not look symmetrical (the same on both feet and legs); or if you have any other concerns about your child’s foot health, consider seeing a podiatrist for assessment and advice.